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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

NASA’s great plan for tax-payer funded nuclear reactors on Mars

U.S. tests nuclear power system to sustain astronauts on Mars – #SCIENCE NEWS, JANUARY 19, 2018, Will Dunham, WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Initial tests in Nevada on a compact nuclear power system designed to sustain a long-duration NASA human mission on the inhospitable surface of Mars have been successful and a full-power run is scheduled for March, officials said on Thursday.

Officials from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and U.S. Department of Energy, at a news conference in Las Vegas, detailed the development of the nuclear fission system under NASA’s Kilopower project.

Months-long testing of the system began in November at the energy department’s Nevada National Security Site, with an eye toward providing energy for future human and robotic missions in space and on the surface of Mars, the moon or other solar system destinations………..

“Mars is a very difficult environment for power systems, with less sunlight than Earth or the moon, very cold nighttime temperatures, very interesting dust storms that can last weeks and months that engulf the entire planet,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator of NASA‘s Space Technology Mission Directorate…….

President Donald Trump in December signed a directive intended to pave the way for a return to the moon, with an eye toward an eventual mission to Mars.

 The new system could potentially supply the power human crews on the Martian surface would need to energize habitats and run processing equipment to transform resources such as ice on the planet into oxygen, water and fuel, NASA said………Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Tom Brown https://www.reuters.com/article/us-space-nuclear/u-s-tests-nuclear-power-system-to-sustain-astronauts-on-mars-idUSKBN1F72T8
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January 19, 2018 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

China unlikely to go ahead with AREVA’s nuclear reprocessing plan, despite Macron’s support

Reuters 11th Jan 2018, So close yet so far: China deal elusive for France’s Areva. A deal long
sought by French company Areva to build a $12-billion nuclear waste
reprocessing plant in China looks increasingly unlikely to go ahead despite
a visit to Beijing by President Emmanuel Macron meant to drum up business.

During Macron’s state visit this week, Areva and China National Nuclear
Corp (CNNC) signed a new “protocol agreement” to build the plant but,
not for the first time, no definitive contract was signed.

Since talks began more than a decade ago – when uranium prices UXXc1 were near record
highs – a series of non-committal French-Chinese memorandums of
understanding have been signed for building a reprocessing plant in China
modeled on state-owned Areva’s plant in La Hague, northern France.

The reprocessing of nuclear fuel waste involves separating plutonium from the
spent uranium and reusing it in “Mixed Oxide” (MOX) fuel at nuclear
power stations.

But the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and competition
from renewable energy are weighing on the nuclear sector, and uranium
prices are down 80 percent from a decade ago, making the expensive and
dangerous recycling process less attractive. Chinese nuclear scientist Li
Ning, dean of Xiamen University’s College of Energy and a member of State
Nuclear Power Technology Corporation’s (SNPTC) expert committee, sees
“a fairly low probability” that China will sign a formal contract for
the project.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-areva-china-nuclearpower-analysis/so-close-yet-so-far-china-deal-elusive-for-frances-areva-idUSKBN1F01RJ

January 13, 2018 Posted by | China, France, marketing, politics international, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Atomic batteries, including plutonium pacemakers – not monitored

Paul Waldon, 12 Jan 18  The 1970’s gave birth to Atomic Batteries, used in buoys, remote radio stations and for decades gifted to heart patients with pacemakers. With a half life of 87.7 years this issue has been described as problematic when the patients eventually die. Neither the United States nor the Soviet Union- the two countries where the devices were implanted- were particularly diligent about documentation, many of the pacemaker recipients and their 200 milligram plutonium batteries simply disappeared.

January 13, 2018 Posted by | health, technology | Leave a comment

Trump’s NASA Space Plans – Potential for a Nuclear Catastrophe

Trump’s NASA Plans Are a Nuclear Disaster Waiting to Happen http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/43021-the-nuclear-disaster-of-trumps-nasa-plans December 29, 2017By Linda Pentz Gunter,   Earlier this month, President Trump announced that he wants the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to “lead an innovative space exploration program to send American astronauts back to the moon, and eventually Mars.” But while couched in patriotic sound bites and pioneering rhetoric that “Florida and America will lead the way into the stars,” the risks such ventures would entail — and the hidden agenda they conceal — have scarcely been touched upon.

For those of us who watched Ron Howard’s nail-biter of a motion picture, Apollo 13,and for others who remember the real-life drama as it unfolded in April 1970, collective breaths were held that the three-man crew would return safely to Earth. They did.

What hardly anyone remembers now — and certainly few knew at the time — was that the greater catastrophe averted was not just the potential loss of three lives, tragic though that would have been. There was a lethal cargo on board that, if the craft had crashed or broken up, might have cost the lives of thousands and affected generations to come.

It is a piece of history so rarely told that NASA has continued to take the same risk over and over again, as well as before Apollo 13. And that risk is to send rockets into space carrying the deadliest substance ever created by humans: plutonium.

Now, with the race on to send people to Mars, NASA is at it again with its Kilopower project, which would use fission power for deep space. It would be the first fission reactor launched into space since the 1960s. Fission, commonly used in commercial nuclear reactors, is the process of splitting the atom to release energy. A by-product of fission is plutonium.

Small reactors would be used to generate electricity on Mars to power essential projects in the dark. But first, such a reactor has to get to Mars without incident or major accident. And the spacecraft carrying it would also be nuclear-powered, adding monumentally to the already enormous risk. As physicist Michio Kaku points out, “Let’s be real. One percent of the time, rockets fail, they blow up, and people die.” With plutonium on board, the only acceptable accident risk has to be 0 percent.

When Apollo 13 mission astronaut John Swigert told NASA Mission Control “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” it only touched on the most immediate crisis: the damaging of the craft after the explosion of an oxygen tank that forced the crew to abort the planned moon landing.

However, what few knew at the time — and what was entirely omitted from Howard’s 1995 film — was the even bigger crisis of what to do about the SNAP-27 Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) on board. The RTG was carrying plutonium-238. It was supposed to have been left on the moon to power experiments. Now that no moon landing was to occur, what would become of the RTG, especially if Apollo 13 ended up crashing back to Earth in a fireball? Such an outcome could disperse the plutonium as dust, which, if inhaled, would be deadly.

One (and possibly the only) journalist who has been consistently on the “nukes in space” beat for more than 30 years is Karl Grossman. When the Apollo 13 movie came out, he picked up the phone and called the film’s production company, Imagine Entertainment, to ask why they had not included the higher drama of the plutonium problem. “It was surprising to see Hollywood not utilizing an Armageddon theme,” he told Truthout.

Grossman said that Michael Rosenberg, then executive vice president and now co-chairman of Imagine Entertainment, told him that the omission was an “artistic decision.” However, since NASA personnel had served as advisors for the film, Grossman speculated that the agency might have been more than a disinterested party. Far better that the film confine itself to the life-threatening jeopardy of the three astronauts rather than the danger to life on Earth that would have been posed by falling plutonium.

Grossman was already well aware of the Armageddon potential of NASA missions by the time he called Howard’s production company. In 1985, he had learned that two space shuttle missions planned for 1986 would carry plutonium-powered probes to be lofted into space to orbit the Sun and Jupiter. As it turned out, the ill-fated Challenger was one of the shuttles scheduled for the May 1986 plutonium mission, in what would have been its second flight that year.

Grossman said he had been worried at the time about a rocket explosion on launch, a not unprecedented disaster. Or what if a shuttle carrying a plutonium-fueled space probe failed to attain orbit, exploded and crashed back to Earth?

The official NASA and Department of Energy (DOE) documents Grossman eventually obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, “insisted that a catastrophic shuttle accident was a 1-in-100,000 chance,” he said.

But on January 28, 1986, Challenger exploded. (Shortly thereafter, NASA changed the odds of a catastrophic shuttle accident to 1-in-76.) Grossman called The Nation and asked if they knew that Challenger’s next mission would have carried plutonium. The magazine invited Grossman to write an editorial — “The Lethal Shuttle” — which ran on the magazine’s front page.

After The Nation editorial, Grossman was invited over to the offices of “60 Minutes.” He duly appeared with armfuls of documents and alarming “what ifs” but, as he told Truthout, “there was no ignition,” and “60 Minutes” never picked up the story.

Over the years, articles about the use of nuclear power on space devices and military plans for space continued to be ignored. With the mainstream media apparently reluctant to challenge the space program — perhaps out of a misplaced sense of “patriotism” — Grossman continued his solo investigations. In 1997, he penned a book, The Wrong Stuff, which detailed NASA’s blunders with plutonium-fueled missions and its unrealistic calculations about the probability of a major accident.

There had been problems before Challenger. In 1964, an aborted mission carrying an RTG had resulted in a reentry burn-up over Madagascar. Plutonium was found in trace amounts in the area months later. Although the event was downplayed, it had serious consequences, as Grossman found in a report he cited in The Wrong Stuff. The plutonium had spread all over the world.

According to page 21 of the report, “A worldwide soil sampling program carried out in 1970 showed SNAP-9A debris to be present on all continents and at all latitudes.”

John Gofman, professor of molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley, and involved in the isolation of plutonium in the early years of the Manhattan Project, connected the SNAP-9A accident to a worldwide spike in lung cancer, as reported on page 12 of Grossman’s The Wrong Stuff.

Similarly, in 1968, a weather satellite was aborted soon after takeoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The plutonium from its RTG plunged into 300 feet of water off the California coast. Fortunately, in this instance, it was retrieved. At the time, all satellites were powered by RTGs. But in the wake of these disasters, NASA had already begun to push to develop solar photovoltaic (PV) power for satellites. Today, all satellites are powered by solar PV, as is the International Space Station.

Apollo 13 jettisoned its 3.9 kg of plutonium over the South Pacific, already the setting for scores of atomic weapons tests by the US and France. Contained in a graphite fuel cask, it supposedly came to rest in the deep Tonga Trench. No one will ever bother to retrieve it, even though it is now technically feasible, because of the enormous cost. Whether it has leaked (likely) and how it has affected marine life will now never be known.

Grossman kept on writing about the dangers of nuclear materials in space as well as the possibility for space wars. He found that one of the reasons NASA and the DOE sought to use nuclear power in space was to work in tandem with the Pentagon, which was pushing Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, known colloquially as “Star Wars.” Star Wars was predicated on orbiting battle platforms with nuclear reactors — or “super RTGs” — on board, providing the large amounts of energy for particle beams, hypervelocity guns and laser weapons.

Although seemingly alone on the issue as a journalist, Grossman is not without an important resource in the form of Bruce Gagnon’s Maine-based Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, which has been campaigning on the issue since 1992. Gagnon has watchdogged space weaponry but also US government plans to plunder other planets and moons for minerals, as the Trump administration is hinting it expects to do. Gagnon told Grossman that such plans have never been far from the nuclear industry’s radar and that at nuclear power industry conferences, “Nuclear-powered mining colonies and nuclear-powered rockets to Mars were key themes.”

The topic was also covered by Helen Caldicott and Craig Eisendrath in their 2007 book, War in Heaven. That same year, the Cassini space probe was launched. It carried 72.3 pounds of plutonium fuel, used to generate electricity, not propulsion — 745 watts of it to run the probe’s instruments. As Grossman wrote in a recent article and drew attention to in his documentary — Nukes in Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens — Cassini “was launched on a Titan IV rocket despite several Titan IV rockets having blown up on launch.”

In 1999, because “Cassini didn’t have the propulsion power to get directly from Earth to Saturn…. NASA had it hurtle back to Earth in a ‘slingshot maneuver’ or ‘flyby’ — to use Earth’s gravity to increase its velocity,” Grossman wrote. A catastrophic failure of that operation could have seen Cassini crash to Earth, dispersing its deadly plutonium load. According to NASA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini Mission, Section 4-5, the “approximately 7 to 8 billion world population at the time … could receive 99 percent or more of the radiation exposure.” And yet, the agency proceeded to take that chance.

The world had once again dodged a radioactive bullet. In September 2017, having completed its mission, Cassini was deliberately crashed into Saturn, contaminating that planet with plutonium. While less controversial than lethally dumping it on Earth, the event raises at least moral, if not scientific questions about humankind’s willingness to pollute other planets with abandon after already doing so to our current home.

The Trump administration’s planned new missions to the moon and Mars would seem to follow that pattern, with Trump stating ominously, “this time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint.” The US now intends to conduct “long-term exploration and use” on Mars and the moon.

A recent article in Roll Call suggested that while Trump has said little publicly about the militarization of space, behind-the-scenes space satellite warfare is very much on the agenda with serious money set aside to develop “weapons that can be deployed in space.”

A war in space might not involve nuclear weapons — for now. But warring satellites could knock out nuclear weapons early warning systems and set other potential disasters in motion. These cataclysmic risks play strongly into the arguments — enshrined in the recent UN nuclear weapons ban — that we should be disarming on Planet Earth, not arming in space.

December 30, 2017 Posted by | Reference, safety, technology | Leave a comment

Japan’s $122 billion nuclear fuel reprocessing plant Rokkasho delayed yet again

 Japanese nuclear fuel reprocessing plant delayed yet again Nikkei Asian Review
https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/Policy-Politics/Japanese-nuclear-fuel-reprocessing-plant-delayed-yet-again

Age-related decay plagues Rokkasho project, stalled for 20 years, December 23, 2017 

TOKYO — The Japanese company building a reprocessing plant for spent nuclear fuel pushed back the planned completion date by another three years Friday, further clouding prospects for realizing the nuclear fuel cycle sought by the energy-poor country.

  Japan Nuclear Fuel said it now expects to finish the facility in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, in the first half of fiscal 2021, citing problems with aging equipment that forced the suspension of safety checks by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. The deadline has been postponed 23 times from the original target of 1997.

Executive President Kenji Kudo apologized Friday to Aomori Vice Gov. Ikuo Sasaki and said his company would work as one to follow the new timetable at all costs.

Sasaki warned that the series of problems at the plant, stemming from age-related deterioration and insufficient inspections, “could cause residents to lose trust in the facility’s safety.”

The reprocessing plant is meant to extract uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for reuse in reactors, making it a key link in the envisioned nuclear fuel cycle. Work on the Rokkasho facility began in 1993, but it has sat idle for more than two decades, and many parts are deteriorating with age. Rainwater leaked into a building housing an emergency power supply, and corrosion ate holes in exhaust pipes at a uranium enrichment facility.

The cost of the Rokkasho plant, including operating expenses, has climbed to 13.9 trillion yen ($122 billion), and repair costs may push the total even higher. The necessary funds are provided by the big power companies that are Japan Nuclear Fuel’s main shareholders, feeding growing criticism that the burden falls indirectly on consumers.

The government decided last year to scrap the Monju experimental fast-breeder nuclear reactor, another part of the fuel-cycle plan.

Kudo acknowledged the excessive number of delays and said he would accept the criticism levied at his company. “We want to complete [the facility] at the earliest possible date,” he said.

But it remains unclear whether three additional years will be enough to bring the plant in line with tough new standards imposed after the Fukushi

December 27, 2017 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

North Korea plans a “satellite” space launch

North Korea plans ‘satellite’ launch for space program, amid UN sanctions News Corp Australia Network, DECEMBER 27, 2017  AS North Korea plans a “satellite” space launch, observers have warned, amid UN sanctions, the rogue nation could be using it as a cover for more weapons tests.Fox News NORTH Korea’s regime is planning to launch a satellite that observers warn could be a Trojan horse for more weapons tests, a South Korean newspaper reports.

North Korea is being sanctioned by the United Nations over its nuclear and missile launches and is currently not allowed to carry out any launches using ballistic missile technology, which includes satellites, reports Fox News.

“Through various channels, we’ve recently learned that the North has completed a new satellite and named it Kwangmyongsong-5,” the Joongang Ilbo daily reported, quoting a South Korean government source.

The isolated North Korean regime has called the sanctions an “act of war” that’s been “rigged up the US.”

The South Korean newspaper reports that the communist regime’s plan is to put a satellite with cameras and telecommunication devices into orbit.

Pyongyang launched its Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite in February 2016, which much of the international community viewed as a disguised ballistic missile test.

A spokesman for the South Korean military reportedly said there was “nothing out of ordinary at this moment,” but added that Seoul was watching out for any provocative acts, “including the test of a long-range missile disguised as a satellite launch…….. http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/north-korea-plans-satellite-launch-for-space-program-amid-un-sanctions/news-story/e935e5ce25fe0c025d7ab43481e08759

December 27, 2017 Posted by | North Korea, technology | Leave a comment

China’s expansion into South China Sea includes a floating nuclear power plant

China’s plans to expand in the South China Sea with a floating nuclear power plant continue, news.com.auNews Corp Australia Network DECEMBER 26, 2017 CHINA’S expansion in the South China Sea continues with plans for a floating nuclear plant. But that’s not all. They’re also using ‘magical machines’.AFP  CHINA’S large-scale land reclamation around disputed reefs and shoals in the South China Sea is “moving ahead steadily”, state media has reported, and is on track to use giant “island-builders” to transform even more of the region.

Beijing claims nearly all of the sea and has been turning reefs in the Spratly and Paracel chains into islands, installing military facilities and equipment in the area where it has conflicting claims with neighbours……….The report noted that with last month’s introduction of the new super-dredger Tianjing, a “magical island building machine”, and other “magical machines” soon to come, “the area of the South China Sea’s islands and reefs will expand a step further”.

China is also building a floating nuclear power plant, the report said, to provide power for those living in the Sansha city area……. http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/chinas-plans-to-expand-in-the-south-china-sea-with-a-floating-nuclear-power-plant-continue/news-story/bdc1bf6f6b556daf097b3199b5690182

December 27, 2017 Posted by | China, technology | Leave a comment

International concern over Japan’s super expensive nuclear reprocessing project

Japan’s MOX program faces tough questions as recycling costs balloon for spent atomic fuel, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/17/national/japans-mox-program-faces-tough-questions-recycling-costs-balloon-spent-atomic-fuel/ DEC 17, 2017, Kyodo

 Japan is the only non-nuclear weapons state in the world that still engaged in a commercial spent-fuel reprocessing program. While it struggles to keep its nuclear power program sustainable by burning the recycled hybrid fuel called mixed oxide, or MOX, this has resulted in a stockpile of nearly 50 tons of plutonium.This stockpile, which can be used to make nuclear weapons, has caused international concern.

The MOX fuel is produced by reprocessing spent nuclear fuel and reusing the extracted plutonium and uranium as fresh fuel. Japan’s utilities send their spent nuclear fuel to France for reprocessing. The problem is that only a few reactors in Japan are currently using MOX.

According to data from the Finance Ministry and other sources, the price of one MOX fuel unit imported in 1999 by Tokyo Electric (now Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.) was ¥230 million ($2 million).

The price of the recycled fuel that Kansai Electric Power Co. bought in September 2016, however, exceeded ¥1 billion.

While power firms do not disclose MOX costs, sources familiar with the fuel recycling business said the price includes the cost of transport, private security and insurance.

With many nuclear plants shut due to the safety concerns raised by the 2011 Fukushima disaster, only three plants — two Kansai Electric reactors and one Shikoku Electric Power Co. reactor — now use MOX in the so-called pluthermal power generation program.

Since the pluthermal project is the only way for the nation to consume its plutonium stockpile, it has declined only slightly since the three reactors were started.

 

 

 

 

 

December 18, 2017 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

The fantasy of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors for outback Australia

Volunteers wanted – to house small modular nuclear reactors in Australia,Online Opinion, Noel WAuchope , 11 Dec 17, 

We knew that the Australian government was looking for volunteers in outback South Australia, to take the radioactive trash from Lucas Heights and some other sites, (and not having an easy time of it). But oh dear– we had no idea that the search for hosting new (untested) nuclear reactors was on too!

Well, The Australian newspaper has just revealed this extraordinary news, in its article “Want a nuclear reactor in your backyard? Step this way” (28/11/17). Yes, it turns out that a Sydney-based company, SMR Nuclear Technology, plans to secure volunteers and a definite site within three years. If all goes well, Australia’s Small Modular Reactors will be in operation by 2030.

Only, there are obstacles. Even this enthusiastic article does acknowledge one or two of them. One is the need to get public acceptance of these so far non-existent new nuclear reactors. SMR director Robert Pritchard is quoted as saying that interest in these reactors is widespread. He gives no evidence for this.

The other is that the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant in Australia is prohibited by both commonwealth and state laws.

But there are issues, and other obstacles that are not addressed on this article. A vital question is: does SMR Nuclear Technology intend to actually build the small reactors in Australia, or more likely, merely assemble them from imported modular parts – a sort of nuclear Lego style operation?

If it is to be the latter, there will surely be a delay of probably decades. Development of SMRs is stalled, in USA due to strict safety regulations, and in UK, due to uncertainties, especially the need for public subsidy. That leaves China, where the nuclear industry is government funded, and even there, development of SMRs is still in its infancy.

As to the former, it is highly improbable that an Australian company would have the necessary expertise, resources, and funding, to design and manufacture nuclear reactors of any size. The overseas companies now planning small reactors are basing their whole enterprise on the export market. Indeed, the whole plan for “modular” nuclear reactors is about mass production and mass marketing of SMRs -to be assembled in overseas countries. That is accepted as the only way for the SMR industry to be commercially successful. Australia looks like a desirable customer for the Chinese industry, the only one that looks as if it might go ahead, at present,

If, somehow, the SMR Technologies’ plan is to go ahead, the other obstacles remain.

The critical one is of course economics. …….

Other issues of costs and safety concern the transport of radioactive fuels to the reactors, and of radioactive waste management. The nuclear industry is very fond of proclaiming that wastes from small thorium reactors would need safe disposal and guarding for “only 300 years”. Just the bare 300!

The Australian Senate is currently debating a Bill introduced by Cory Bernardi, to remove Australia’s laws prohibiting nuclear power development. The case put by SMR Technologies, as presented in The Australian newspaper is completely inadequate. The public deserves a better examination of this plan for Small Modular Reactors SMRS. And why do they leave out the operative word “Nuclear” -because it is so on the nose with the public? http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=19460&page=2

December 11, 2017 Posted by | Kenya, Reference, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Britain’s plans to become a leader in Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

The government has announced up to £56m in funding for the development of
mini-nuclear plants. The money will be available over the next three years
to assess the potential of designs of advanced and small modular reactors
(SMRs). It will also support early access to regulators in order to build
the capability and capacity needed to assess and licence SMRs and will
establish an expert finance group to advise how small reactor projects
could raise private investment in the UK. The first round of funding
comprises up to £4m for feasibility studies and up to £7m to further
develop their capability. Should these efforts prove successful, up to
£40m will be made available for R&D projects to bring the technology into
the mainstream. The government said it wanted the UK to become a world
leader in developing the next generation of nuclear technologies.

Engineering & Technology 8th Dec 2017

https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2017/12/mini-nuclear-power-plant-concept-gets-56m-funding-boost-from-uk-government/

December 11, 2017 Posted by | politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | Leave a comment

Scrutiny on Small Modular Nuclear Reactors as UK govt ploughs money into them , despite financial risks

Telegraph 7th Dec 2017, Ministers are poised to plough almost £150m into developing new nuclear
technologies even after the Government’s own investigation revealed deep
uncertainties about the economics of next generation reactors.

The Government’s plan to reboot its stalled nuclear ambitions by investing in
research and development has been mired by indecision and delay since it
promised in 2015 to provide £250m to help developers find new, cheaper
ways to invest in the low-carbon power.

Government provoked furtherconfusion today after issuing a flurry of funding announcements for small
modular reactors, known as ‘baby nukes’, alongside findings that they may
prove even more expensive than traditional nuclear plants.

The new reactors, being developed by industrial giants including Rolls Royce and
NuScale, will face another round of financial scrutiny by industry experts,
the Government said. But in the meantime as much as £460m has been
promised for new nuclear research and development by the end of the decade.

The money will come from the Government, Innovate UK, and the Research
Councils, a Government spokeswoman said. The research funding windfall
includes £86m to develop nuclear fusion technology and a further £56m
towards research and development of next generation nuclear reactors.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/12/07/nuclear-windfall-new-technologies-concerns-cost-persist/

December 9, 2017 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | 1 Comment

Electricity from Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) would be much more expensive than from ‘conventional’ reactors

Power from mini nuclear plants ‘would cost more than from large ones’
UK government study finds electricity would be nearly one-third pricier than it would from plants such as Hinkley Point C, 
Guardian, Adam Vaughan, 7 Dec 17, Electricity from the first mini nuclear power stations in Britain would be likely to be more expensive than from large atomic plants such as Hinkley Point C, according to a government study.

Power from small modular reactors (SMRs) would cost nearly one-third more than conventional large ones in 2031, the report found, because of reduced economies of scale and the costs of deploying first-of-a-kind technology.

The analysis by the consultancy Atkins for the Department for Business, Energyand Industrial Strategy said there was “a great deal of uncertainty with regards to the economics” of the smaller reactors.

However, the authors said such reactors should be able to cut costs more quickly than large ones because they could be built and put into service in less time.

Advocates have argued that the reactors could be built in factories and achieve savings through their modular nature.

While the report covers the technology being used by several of the international companies seeking government support, it does not apply to the design being pushed by businesses including Rolls-Royce.

A government source said nuclear companies had told officials that the cost of the technology had come down since the report, which was finished in July last year but only published on Thursday.

As revealed by the Guardian earlier this week, ministers confirmed that SMR developers would receive £56m of public funding for research and development over three years. A further £86m was announced for work on nuclear fusion.

Greg Clark, the business secretary, said the backing would help the nuclear sector compete globally………

The government also defended Britain’s need for new nuclear power in the face of falling renewable costs.

Richard Harrington, the energy minister, said the record low subsidies recently awarded to offshore windfarms emphasised the challenge for the French, Korean, Chinese and Japanese companies building the UK’s new generation of nuclear plants to be competitive on price………

green groups and politicians accused the government of talking down renewables.

Doug Parr, the policy director at Greenpeace UK, said: “Instead of downplaying the rapid advancement of UK renewables, the government should concentrate on the export opportunities for this UK success story.”

Caroline Lucas, the Green party co-leader, called the UK’s energy policy a mess. “Ministers are ploughing huge sums of money into supporting overpriced nuclear, while retaining a de facto ban on onshore wind and failing to give solar the support the sector needs,” she said……. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/07/power-mini-nuclear-plants-cost-more-hinkley-point-c

December 8, 2017 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, technology, UK | Leave a comment

Failure of Monju fast-breeder nuclear reactor leaves Japan with a huge spent fuel problem

Japan Times 6th Dec 2017, The operator of the Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor submitted
a plan Wednesday to decommission the trouble-plagued facility located in
Fukui Prefecture. The most recent plan presented to the Nuclear Regulation
Authority lays out a 30-year time frame to complete the project despite a
number of problems that remain unresolved, including where to store the
spent nuclear fuel.

The government had originally hoped the Monju reactor
would serve as a linchpin for its nuclear-fuel-recycling efforts as it was
designed to produce more plutonium than it consumed. But it experienced a
series of problems, including a leakage of sodium coolant in 1995 and
equipment failures in 2012. The plant has only operated intermittently over
the past two decades.
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/06/national/nuclear-reactor-operator-submits-30-year-plan-scrap-trouble-prone-monju-facility/

December 7, 2017 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing, wastes | Leave a comment

Trump tax bill promotes polluting robots – and damages clean energy workers

Polluting robots win big, clean energy workers get screwed in Trump tax bill http://reneweconomy.com.au/polluting-robots-win-big-clean-energy-workers-get-screwed-trump-tax-bill-37122/ By Joe Romm on 7 December 2017

Think Progress  Polluting robots of the world, unite! The GOP tax bill is for you.

The rest of us, however, have a lot to lose from GOP tax changes that favor investments in dirty energy over clean — and robots over human workers.

As one MIT economist told Newsweek, “We are creating huge subsidies in our tax code for capital and encouraging employers to use machines instead of labor.” And unless significant changes are made in the GOP plan, those machines will be running on dirty energy.

 Last month, I discussed how the House tax bill targets key solar and wind energy tax credits that have helped make clean energy a crucial high-wage job-creating sector in the United States.

The good news is that the Senate tax bill doesn’t roll back those renewable energy tax credits.

The bad news is that it contains language that could seriously undermine the investment in renewables by imposing “a new 100 percent tax” on those credits, as Gregory Wetstone, head of the American Council on Renewable Energy, explained in a statement.

“If this bill passes as drafted, major financial institutions would no longer participate in tax equity financing, which is the principal mechanism for monetizing credits,” Wetstone pointed out.

“Almost overnight, you would see a devastating reduction in wind and solar energy investment and development.” Meanwhile, tax subsidies for fossil fuels, many of which are decades old, would continue unchanged–and the Senate bill opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

This type of clean energy financing will reach $12 billion this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which examined the impact of this change in detail.

This investment, much of it by multinational finance companies, has helped leveraged some $50 billion a year in U.S. wind and solar projects, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Ironically — or, rather, tragically — harming renewables mostly harms red states. As “The American Prospect” noted, “The states that voted for Trump produce nearly 70 percent of wind energy, while 85 percent of existing wind projects are in GOP-held congressional districts.”

As for longer-term impacts, the GOP plan would cut billions of dollars in incentives for  the biggest new source of sustainable high-wage employment in the world — clean energy — just as China and the rest of the world are making massive investments.

What’s unknown at this point is how these and other changes to these tax credits will be dealt with in the final bill, after the House and Senate work out their differences. While the House plan to gut the credits was intentional, it’s not clear that Senators intended to undermine them, so the problem is fixable.

 One thing that was very intentional was the “full and immediate expensing of equipment purchases” provision. This would let companies deduct from their taxes the full cost of some types of investments, such as new industrial equipment, that are currently only allowed a 50 percent deduction.

This change would occur just when companies are beginning to automate their factories using robots and advanced computing technology, as corporate tax attorney Robert Kovacev, explained to Huffington Post: “It’s going to accelerate spending, basically, on robots that could displace workers.”

The GOP plan naturally has no tax incentives to encourage businesses to hire more actual workers or to retrain those who lose their job due to automation

Indeed, the Senate bill is so bad that Bloomberg’s editors wrote a piece explaining “Republicans have managed to make a terrible plan worse.” As one example the equipment-expensing provision would take effect immediately, but the Senate only lowers the corporate tax rate to 20 percent (from 35) in 2019.

“This will allow businesses to take deductions on investments while rates are high, then pay a lower rate on the resulting income, creating a perverse incentive to pursue otherwise unprofitable projects,” explains Bloomberg.

So the Senate bill actually encourages companies to replace workers even with unprofitable robots.

Unprofitable polluting robots — quite a legacy for the disastrous GOP tax plan.

December 7, 2017 Posted by | employment, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors not economically viable, but UK govt is funding them anyway

UK government to release funding for mini nuclear power stations
Up to £100m expected to be announced in effort to make UK leader in technology and provide fresh source of clean power,
Guardian, Adam Vaughan, 4 Dec 17, The energy minister, Richard Harrington, is expected to announce support for the embryonic technology on Thursday, industry figures told the Guardian. The funding is likely to be up to £100m, one source said.

Small modular reactors provide about a tenth of the power of a conventional large nuclear power station, such as the one EDF is building at Hinkley Point C in Somerset. But their backers pitch them as a cheaper and quicker way to generate the new, low-carbon power the UK needs.

 Rolls-Royce has been publicly and privately lobbying the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) over its SMR design, which it positions as an industrial opportunity for Britain that would generate thousands of UK jobs.

The firm argues that with electric cars likely to drive up future energy demand, the reactors will become a vital part of national infrastructure………

The funding is designed to help Rolls and other consortia, including the US companies NuScale and Terrapower and the controversial Chinese firm CNNC, undertake the research and development for a small nuclear power station to be built in the UK. It is not yet clear who will win a share of public funds, or how the pot will be carved up between the 33 participants in the SMR competition.

Government officials have repeatedly made it clear that developers will only get financial help if they can prove their SMR will be affordable and competitive with rival energy sources. The earliest an SMR is thought likely to be ready for deployment in the UK is around 2030………

The former energy secretary Lord Howell gave his backing to the reactors at a recent House of Lords event, where advocates and critics debated the technology.

“The obvious way forward is through the sequential construction of a new series of smaller modular reactors of the kind now being developed by Rolls-Royce in the UK, and also in China and in America,” said Howell.

However, energy experts said the case for SMRs was far from proved, especially given the falling cost of alternatives such as offshore windfarms………….

Paul Dorfman, a research fellow at University College London, said: “The real question the government must ask is this: given the ongoing steep reduction in all renewable energy costs, and since SMR research and development is still very much ongoing, by the time SMRs comes to market, can they ever be cost competitive with renewable energy? The simple answer to that is a resounding no.”

An energy industry source also questioned how credible most of the SMR developers were. “Almost none of them have got more than a back of a fag packet design drawn with a felt tip,” the source said……..https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/dec/03/mini-nuclear-power-stations-uk-government-funding

December 4, 2017 Posted by | technology, UK | Leave a comment